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To Be or Not To Be Baptized

Is it necessary?

Is it immersion or sprinkling?

When is it to be done?

Is the effectiveness of baptism dependent on any other acts or beliefs?

If John could only baptize with water, why did he bother?

Why was Jesus baptized if He was without sin?

If it is necessary, what about the thief on the cross?

Why is there so much controversy about baptism in the religious world?

Is there symbolism connected to baptism?

A study of New Testament conversions:

Acts 2:37-38 Most of those present at Pentecost (Harvest Feast) were ready to do what God required of them. What were they told to do? How soon were the believers baptized?

Acts 8:12-13 What was happening in conjunction with their belief? When? How many? What did Simon do before he continued on with Philip?

Acts 8:36-39 How soon did the eunuch feel he needed to be baptized? Where did they go to accomplish the act? Notice they went "down into the water" - Obviously, sprinkling wasn't sufficient or they would not have both walked into the water.

Acts 9:17-19 How soon after receiving his sight was Paul baptized?

Acts 10:44-48 What kind of man was Cornelius (vs 2-4,22,31) What did he lack to be saved? What did Peter have to convince the Jews with him was necessary at this time? Does it sound like Peter thought baptism could wait in this situation? (vs 48) How soon did it happen? Who was baptized?

Acts 11:15-18 Peter explains that the Gentiles have been given repentance that leads to life. Was baptism a key event in that process?

Acts 16:14-15 Lydia, also noted as being a worshipper of God, responds to what Paul is saying. What did she and her household do? (Obviously Cornelius and his household were not the only "God-fearing people" who yet lacked something to be saved. Could it be that baptism by water and the Holy Spirit was what they lacked? They certainly felt it was important enough to accomplish it immediately!)

Acts 16:30-34 What did Paul & Silas tell the jailer he must do to be saved? What did he do? When did he do it? Does baptism seem to be an important part of receiving salvation?

Acts 19:1-6 Were these people already followers of God? Had they been baptized? Why did they choose to be baptized again? How soon did they follow through with the second baptism?

Acts 22:16 Paul is recounting his conversion. How did he know he needed to be baptized? How soon was he to accomplish it? (Does baptism wash away sin?)

In every account given above, one act was present in every one - baptism! And, in every case it seems it was done immediately. What should that tell the reader about the importance and timeliness of baptism? Many denominations say baptism is something that can come when "you feel like doing it". How soon did those converted in Acts want to be baptized? Did it seem to be an act of obedience that could be put off until one felt like it to Paul? to Peter? to the eunuch? to the jailer? to those at Pentecost? If you can be "a good, God-fearing person" and be saved, then why did Cornelius and his household and Lydia and her household feel it was so important to be baptized immediately?

John 3:23 What was John doing? Why was he doing it there? (If sprinkling is acceptable, why did he go to Aenon because there was much water there?)

John 3:1-5 What is necessary to enter into the kingdom of God? Does this sound optional? How does this explain why some were re-baptized in Acts 19:1-6? Obviously, those baptized by John were baptized by water only. By the time Paul, Peter, and others were baptizing, the Holy Spirit was being given to those being baptized. Thus, they were baptized by the water and the Spirit, just as this passage states is a requirement to enter the kingdom of God! This also matches Christ's statement that when He left the earth, He would leave the Holy Spirit with His people to help them (John 14:16) Much of the denominational world says this verse contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9? What do you think? Can you think of anything else that is necessary to be saved/part of being saved? (Matt 24:13, endurance; Mark 16:16, belief/baptism; Luke 7:50, faith; Luke 8:12, belief; Acts 16:31, belief; Romans 5:10, Christ; Romans 8:24, hope; I Corin 15:1-2, gospel; Ephesians 2:5-8, grace, through faith; James 2:14-17,26, Revelation 22:12, works) What does this say about discounting the necessity of baptism? It is not only grace that saves us but a myriad of things - one of which is baptism! Ephesians 2:8-9 is not an exclusive statement but rather one of many stating what saves us.

John 3:16 is another passage used to say belief is the only thing that is necessary to be saved. While belief is an essential part of being saved, more is necessary. Did Cornelius and his household believe? Did Lydia and her household believe? The answer is yes and yet they lacked another key act of obedience to be saved. Additionally, if belief is all that is necessary (or calling on the name of the Lord, Acts 2:21) what about Luke 6:46, Matt 7:21-24, & Luke 6:46-49? Jesus clearly says there will many who believe and even do many good things in His name, but they will not be saved because they do not do all that is required.

Now read I Peter 3:21-22 What does this passage say saves us? Do we take Ephesians 2:8-9 but throw away this passage? Obviously, baptism is a critical ingredient for being saved. This passage also explains that baptism is an appeal to God through obedience to His command.

Matt 28:19-20 What are Christians instructed to do? Is baptism a part of that commission? Who said to do it? Do we as humans have the authority to disregard or discount what is a direct command from Jesus? If Jesus Himself was baptized, was it not important to Him? (Personal observation - Although Jesus had no sin and did not require baptism for forgiveness of sin, He felt it was necessary to provide an example for His followers to show its importance to God.)

Mark 16:16 Once again, baptism is listed as a requirement for being saved, not an option. Belief is required also. This and other examples previously given also point out that infants are incapable of performing the specified act of baptism since belief is required prior to baptism. One must be old enough to realize their state of sin, believe in God, and be ready to commit the rest of his/her life to God.

Romans 6:3-9, Colossians 2:12 Here Paul equates baptism with burial with Christ and being raised up just as Christ was raised from the dead. If sprinkling is the prescribed method of baptism, how does that fulfill the symbolic act of dying (from sin), being buried, then being resurrected to a new life? Obviously, only immersion recreates the death, burial, and resurrection. Notice that Paul also equates those who have been baptized as those who are in Christ. What would that make those who are not baptized?

Luke 23:39-42 Obviously the thief on the cross had not been baptized, yet Jesus tells him he will be with Him in Paradise. Does this prove baptism is not required to be saved? Before you decide read Matt 28:18 and Mark 2:5-12. Jesus had the power to forgive sins. No other human has or had that power. Not even the apostles were given that power. Does it not follow then that Jesus could waive the requirement for baptism by forgiving the thief of his sins at that very moment? Jesus had the power and felt the compassion to forgive the thief because he recognized that Jesus was sinless and did not deserve to die as he and his companion did. That forgiveness without baptism is not extended to others. We all have the opportunity to be baptized if we believe - the thief did not.

Why did God choose water as the medium for baptism? Can man exist without water? Therefore, man would always have access to water and water could fulfill the symbolism of dying, being buried, and being raised from the dead.

Baptism for the forgiveness of sins originated with the advent of John the Baptist. The role of John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Son of God. Until Jesus died, there could be no forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist was setting the precedent for baptism of water and Spirit for the forgiveness of sins which would follow immediately after the death of Jesus. John the Baptist was preparing the people to accept it since it was a totally new concept for the people. Jesus was baptized by him to show the people how important it was and give an example of the glory that was to come when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him immediately afterward.

Baptism is a simple act of obedience that can be carried out virtually anywhere man can live on this earth. Although we might not understand why God wants us to do it, this is not unlike many other things God tells us we need to do or not do because He knows us better than we know ourselves or He wants us to demonstrate our love and obedience to Him. Before we, in our limited human understanding, say baptism is not important, we should also read and take heed to Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25.

Dwight Eppler